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Practice report: Bears evaluate Slaton


The Texans held their last practice Wednesday before Christmas. Coach Gary Kubiak changed the team's weekly schedule so that the players and coaches could enjoy the holiday with their families.

Schaub better in second season: The season isn't over, but Kubiak already is being asked to evaluate quarterback Matt Schaub. The coach said that hands down Schaub has become a better player in his second season as a starter, especially when it comes to managing the offense.

"He's (Schaub) a better player this year than the guy we had last year, in my opinion," Kubiak said. "He's grown. He's grown in our offense. He's grown in handling games, managing game situations. I think he's much better at that."

Still, Kubiak said there is another level for Schaub. The quarterback has helped Houston's offense become the third-best in the NFL, averaging 377.2 yards per game. He ranks eighth in the league in completion percentage, hitting 65.1 percent of his throws. But Schaub has turned the ball over too many times (13 interceptions) and has missed five games this season for health reasons.

"I think he's taken some positive steps this year," Kubiak said. "Obviously, the time missed is something. I don't know how you work on that, but we have to work on that. We've got to figure out a way to play the whole season, stay on the field. And no doubt in my mind if he does that, he's got a chance to be a very productive player."

Slaton-Forte comparisons keep coming: Rookie running backs Steve Slaton and Matt Forte keep drawing comparisons because neither player was drafted in the first round, but both now rank in the top 10 in rushing. This time around, Bears head coach Lovie Smith was the evaluator.

{QUOTE}Slaton (5-9, 203), the Texans' second pick in the third round, ranks seventh in rushing with 1,190 yards, averages 4.8 yards a carry and has rushed for eight touchdowns. He's smaller than Forte, but he's got more speed and can go the distance when he cuts the corner.

"I knew he was a good player and had a lot of success in college," Smith said. "But again, you don't predict the type of season that Steve is playing, is having. He's impressive, just like Matt has been. If you look around the league, there has been a lot of first-year running backs that have made an impact and not even the top ones that were drafted in the draft."

Forte (6-2, 216), the Bears' second-round pick, has rushed for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 3.9 yards a carry and has 61 receptions for 452 yards. All of that has been a pleasant surprise for Smith.

"You never predict a rookie having the type of season that Matt has had," Smith said. "We knew he could carry the ball. He had rushed for over 2,000 yards at Tulane. Everyone you talked to down there really like him, but we didn't know how good of a receiver he was or how good a blocker he could be. He's been just a complete running back for us. It seems like each week he does something else that we shake our head on."

Dunta Claus: Dunta Robinson couldn't help but show his holiday spirit this week. The cornerback has a lot to be thankful for. Last Christmas, he was recovering from surgery to repair potential season-ending injuries. This year, he is healthy and will get to play Santa with his family. Literally.

"This is my first time I have my kids in town, my daughter and my son," Robinson said. "I did a lot of Christmas shopping. I think I'm going to dress up and play Santa Claus this year with dreads.

"I'm going to let them fall. I'm the 2008 new Santa."

At the top of Robinson's Christmas list is a win against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

"The only thing that can take the feeling of a loss away is a win," Robinson said. "So it's important for us to end the season on a good note. I think guys are going to go out and play hard and we're going to leave it all out on the field. We have to put what happened last week behind us and we've got to move on."

Injury notes: Nick Ferguson (knee) and Xavier Adibi (groin) did not practice. If Ferguson can't start on Sunday, second-year pro Brandon Harrison will take his place.

For the official injury report, click **here**.

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